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Bude Tunnel

Christmas at the Bude Tunnel: lighting up Sainsbury’s unlikely Tripadvisor hit

In a testament to people power and the British sense of humour, an unprepossessing Perspex walkway between a supermarket and its carpark – Bude Tunnel – became the highest-rated attraction on Tripadvisor for the Cornish town.

Designed to shelter shoppers from the weather, the 70m Bude tunnel’s first tongue-in-cheek review – by ‘Barry Barnett’ – was posted in late 2017. Since then, hundreds have followed suit.

Hyperbole and rhetoric are juxtaposed with puzzled comments from those who don’t ‘get’ what the fuss is about.

“How is this tunnel still free?” says ‘Gary N’, of Malvern, having travelled 190 miles to see it.

To ‘Shaun C’, it is “a special and spiritual place.”

TheAngusYoung’ from Bristol calls it “marginally more impressive than the Hadron Collider,”; while ‘BudeAngie’ records how, walking through “the iconic Bude Tunnel, the stress of the day was washed away.”

Lauraemilia’ describes the attraction in more prosaic terms: “It’s a walkway to the entrance of a shop.”

IpswitchSteve’, too, “cannot understand why it’s an attraction, to be honest.”

The tunnel has a 4.5 Tripadvisor rating, with 90% of the 410 reviews rating it as ‘Excellent’.

A Bude-iful Christmas makeover

Bude Tunnel

Sainsbury’s, in conjunction with Gravity Road Marketing and design-led production and installation company LCI Productions, have entered into the spirit of the season by giving the tunnel a Christmas makeover with a complex coloured interactive light display.

gravity road logo bude tunnelIn addition to perpetuating the rain shelter’s unlikely fame, the display was switched on in time to be part of a local Christmas fundraising initiative, ‘Light up Bude’.

The tunnel’s seasonal lighting setup, worthy of Oxford Street or Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland, adds another dimension to the perspex shelter that has been compared favourably (by ‘352jonathanj‘) with “the Taj Mahal, the Burj Khalif and the Eiffel Tower.”

How does one light up a tunnel shelter?

Rob Paul, Design Director at LCI Productions; which had also been involved in the production of the viral Sainsbury’s ‘PlugBoy’ TV commercial talked Blooloop through the process of illuminating the unlikeliest of tourist destinations.

rob paul lci productions“We are using a disguise media server being used to run a video which creates the light show on the tunnel. That drives into four pixellator units that convert the video signal into ARC net; and that is driving 96 strings of 300 LEDs.”

He says: “In terms of tech, that means that we are using 192 DMX universes. In terms of the process, what we have done is to create a 3-D model of the tunnel; onto which we have mapped these LEDs. So we end up with what is called a UV map; and that allows us to create videos and then map them onto the tunnel so that you see the patterns and video effects that run along the tunnel at Bude.”

A joke that snowballed.

Bude TunnelPaul says: “It’s a great story.

“If you are designing something from scratch, you have complete control over how it will look. What is interesting with a project like this is that we are dealing with an existing structure, and adding lighting to it.

“Some of the surprises were how the structure of the tunnel added another dimension to the experience. For instance, the plastic of the tunnel creates more of a glow around the lights than we envisaged; which adds to the effect.

“And then we are getting reflections off the hoop structure in the tunnel; which makes for a unique look, and wasn’t something we had initially thought about in the planning. But the fact is that the structure exists in that way. And, in terms of the movement up and down the tunnel, it is creating some really magical looks.”

Charting the tunnel’s progress from rain shelter to tourist destination, Paul says: “This is a fun project.

“The first comment on Tripadvisor was by a man who wants to remain anonymous; then these comments just escalated.

“Sainsbury’s have made what I think is quite a bold choice to turn it into an attraction for the Christmas season. And, of course, are very pleased with the press attention it is receiving.”

bude tunnel sainsburys
Credit: Hayley Tigerfly Photography

PlugBoy and a Sainsbury’s Christmas

According to the feedback, the Bude Tunnel’s light show Christmas experience certainly rivals, and even surpasses, more conventional displays.

Referencing the popular Sainsbury’s Christmas advertisement with which he was involved, Paul says:

“There is, of course, a tie-in with the PlugBoy Sainsbury’s Christmas television commercial; where a boy wears a plug costume and jumps into a large electric socket. The child actor was brought down to Bude to launch the tunnel experience with an Acme-style plunger on the 7th of December.”

During the launch, locals enjoyed complimentary mince pies as they listened to festive choirs and watched local dance troupes.

‘Barry Barnett’, the original Tripadvisor poster behind the whole spectacle was present, still hiding behind his pseudonym, and saying:

“The tunnel is something I have long admired; it’s oddly charming.

Bude Tunnel

“It has a fantastic perspective of repeating arches along its length. It’s curious as it doesn’t really need to exist yet it does; this is part of its charm and the reason I decided to list it on TripAdvisor.

“The lights that have been installed look amazing, they really accentuate the structure of the tunnel.

“It’s great that this has happened alongside Light Up Bude. Hopefully it will bring even more people to visit and be a good thing for the local community to enjoy.”

Something magical for the people of Bude

Bude Tunnel

The tunnel, which was illuminated during store opening hours, was open to both visitors and shoppers until the 13th December. Now, it continues to serve its primary purpose as the weatherproof main thoroughfare between the supermarket and the car park.

Manager of the Bude Sainsbury’s store, Steve Gent, says: “We’ve been overwhelmed with the positive response for the Bude Tunnel.

“We’re delighted to be working with the community to give it all we’ve got and bring the people of Bude something magical this Christmas. It’ll be a shopping trip they’ll never forget.”

Images courtesy of LCI Productions and the Bude Tunnel Facebook page.

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Lalla Merlin

Lead Features Writer Lalla studied English at St. Hugh’s College, Oxford University. A writer and film-maker, she lives in rural Devon with husband, children, and an assortment of badly-behaved animals, including an enormous but friendly wolf.

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